We’re well into our third year of full-time school, and only now has it occurred to me to ask: why am I the one who gets all the birthday party Evite (or Paperless Posts or whatever)?
I mean, let’s be real — I know full well why I’m the one who is designated in charge of household and child-related organization. I’m the one with the vagina, so that’s apparently my domain. Except that in our household, both mom and dad go to work full-time every day and share equally when it comes to parenting responsibilities. Except, apparently, when it comes to birthday party invitations, and the coordination that comes with that responsibility.
I know that it doesn’t make sense to send the Evite to both listed email addresses in the parent directory because it can be hard to get a final count that way. But the fact that not one single parent at any point asked to whom these should be sent is maybe worth thinking about.
Except that I didn’t. Until our third year of this. That’s how completely normalized this mental-load burden has become.
But now that I have noticed, I wonder: what about family structures where there are two moms or two dads? Or two female-presenting parents or two male-presenting parents or even other family structures that don’t break along gender lines at all? Who is the recipient of this subtle form of sexism then? How do we decide in those cases who gets to do the extra work?
Sure, it’s not that much extra work, the birthday party coordination.
In my case, it often means forwarding the Evite to my partner and maybe putting it on the family calendar. And sending the RSVP. And (sometimes after the RSVP, which is a bad plan) checking in with my kid to make sure there isn’t a hitherto unknown but strongly held objection to attending. And making sure there is a gift to said party (though I’ve got a system — I bulk buy one present per child age group: there’s always a gift). And wrapping the gift. And, where feasible or necessary due to sibling birthday party conflicts, arranging a carpool.
OK, it’s some extra work.
And if, say, those Evites went to my husband instead of me, he’s probably forward them on, and I’d still do all of the other above things. Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe if he were the default Evite recipient, he’d feel compelled to take ownership of the birthday party process, at least some of it. (And to be clear, he does. He’s great. But now, he has to go out of his way to do it, and it often seems more efficient for me to just take care of it. I mean, I got the Evite after all.) Maybe if the parents sending the Evites sent them to the fathers, they too would think of fathers as people who can do an equal share of household organization. And maybe then those fathers (in family structures where there are fathers and mothers) would also stop and pause and think about the default birthday party (and PTO and fundraising committee and lunch duty volunteer) email recipients and note that it wasn’t those who, like them, have penises.
Maybe we could send the Evites to all listed parents, and let them sort out who deals with what. Or maybe we could ask first. Maybe not. That’s a lot of extra work for someone (we know who it will be) to take on. But at least let’s notice which parents we send those Evites to. And while we don’t quite have to wonder why — we all know — maybe it’s time to start thinking about which parents we don’t send those Evites to, and then wonder: why not?